Freedom of Speech in Schools


On February 24, 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” But what does that really mean for students at Morgan?

Dress Code 2013

Our freedom of speech and expression includes dress code. Page 19 and 20 of our student handbook includes the Morgan dress code that prohibits the following:

  • Shirts and/or blouses which reveal the abdomen, chest, or undergarments. 
  • Shorts, miniskirts, or pants which reveal the upper thigh or undergarments.
  • See-through clothing, tube tops or ‘spaghetti strap’ tops or clothing designed as sleepwear. 
  • Attire or accessories which depict logos or emblems that encourage sexually implicit messages, the use of drugs, tobacco products, or alcoholic beverages. 
  • Attire or accessories which contain overtly offensive or disruptive writing or pictures likely to unduly disrupt the educational environment, or which constitute “fighting words”. This includes any images of weapons as defined by Clinton BOE Policy 5114.1. 
  • Head coverings of any kind, including but not limited to scarves, bandannas, masks, headbands, visors, kerchiefs, athletic sweatbands, hats, caps, or hoods. Any head covering worn to school, needs to be put away upon arrival into the building. Approved coverings worn as part of a student’s religious practice or belief shall not be prohibited under this policy. 
  • Footwear which marks floors or is a safety hazard. 
  • Sunglasses, whether worn or carried. 
  • Spiked or studded accessories, oversized or multi- finger rings, oversized metal belt buckles, or any clothing item that may present a safety hazard to the student, other students, or staff. 
  • The administration has the right to deem other items inappropriate if they are considered a safety hazard or distraction to the educational practice. 

Sophomore, Matthew Menacho, got a detention for wearing a shirt with a beer logo on it. Matt feels like some of his first amendment rights are violated because he simply just wanted to wear the shirt. He tried to argue that being dress coded was a breach of his freedom of speech, but the administration pointed out that in the dress code it clearly states that clothing that depicts an alcoholic beverage may not be worn.

Freshman Ava Schmidt stated “I feel like dress code goes against our freedom of speech.Nobody cares what you’re wearing. Teachers are creating distractions by dress coding you, not the clothes.” 

SRO Brian Corbin (Ryan Inglis)

Student Resource Officer Brian Corbin claimed that “Students still have a First Amendment Right, however, students may not express ideas that could be detrimental to the learning environment.” This means that students absolutely still have the right to speak freely, but there are limitations to the subjects.

Assistant Principal Chris Luther is in charge of discipline here at Morgan, and he has had to deal with students arguing their First Amendment Rights: “It is a hard subject. I know there are things you can say and do outside of school that you can’t say or do inside of school and that’s hard, but it is necessary for the working environment.”

Sophomore Fernando Serrano said that “I should be able to say what I want, I have the rights outside of school. So I should be able to use them inside of school. I understand why we can’t say some things, but we are also adults.”

GSA Club

In Morgan, we have created many clubs that promote freedom of speech and expression. For example, we have the GSA club, that is for students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community that are allies with students that identify as Heterosexual. The point of this group is to communicate and find ways to express who the members are while thinking of ways to share their stories. 

We also have the Morgan Social Justice Club, which focuses on the issues in our society that concern us today. The social justice club focuses on inclusivity and equality for all. The goal of the club is to spread awareness about the issues going on in our community. This group promotes freedom of speech and expression by letting students talk about the issues they believe are important to them.

All students have the right to propose club ideas. The first step is to find a teacher who will sponsor the club. Next, find students who are willing to join the club. Lastly, talk to Mrs. Hagness and have the club officially created. 

In Morgan, we have the student government, which is a group of students who listen to other students’ ideas and proposes them to the school. At the end of the year, we vote on the students that will represent our class for the next year. Many students think that student government is very important to the school because it lets the students voices be heard.

Journalism 2018

We also have classes in Morgan like journalism, which is run by English teacher Leslie Chausse. In journalism, students create stories and are able to publish them on The Morgan Pawprint website. Students are free to write about what they feel is important to them as well as our school. 

As Morgan students, we do have the right to speak our minds, within limits. Any student is free to dress the way they want within the dress code, start clubs, and share opinions as long as they are not disrespectful or distracting.

Overall, we have many freedoms compared to other schools and should use them wisely.